The spread of Islam in Africa, like the spread of communism in Europe after World War II, threatens to enslave the entire continent. Over 50 per cent of the inhabitants of Africa are Muslim and Islamic leaders have a stated goal of making it the first “Islamic continent.” East Africa, which includes the poverty-stricken nations of Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and the Eastern Congo, has become a particular target for Islamic takeover.
In Tanzania, more than 30 per cent of the population is Muslim and churches in that country are, according to its own leaders, weak, fractured, and worldly. During the Global Anglican Future Conference in 2009, Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo of the Gahini Diocese of the Anglican Church of Rwanda was asked by two Tanznanian church leaders to help combat the Muslim takeover. After prayerfully considering their request, the bishop invited them to attend the annual East Africa Revival Convention in Gahini. From that gathering was launched a new missionary initiative, the East Africa Revival Network. Eighteen lay evangelists were initially commissioned and sent to Tanzania. Since that time, the effort has expanded into an interdenominational and international movement, confronting the challenge of Islam with a renewed emphasis on evangelism and church planting.
Dr. David Cashin, Director of Intercultural and Muslim Studies at the Seminary and School of Missions at Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina, is an advisor to the Network. He and Bishop Bilindabagabo developed a close friendship during the bishop’s two year stint at the school from 2008-2009.
“He has been the driving force behind [the initiative],” Cashin said. “The reality is that there is a major turning of Muslims to Christ. It’s still very gradual. We saw some inklings of it in the 70’s, and with each passing decade, it’s expanded.”
Cashin credits Bishop Bilindabagabo for understanding a reality within Islam with which most Westerners are unfamiliar. “Increasingly, you have groups within Islam which are trying to force their version of Islam on everybody else,” he said. “What has happened over the past few years is that 30,000 Muslims have blown themselves up, and 90 per cent of them have done so in the presence of fellow Muslims. What is driving this is, if you have a kingdom of God that is established on earth by means of human hands through the agency of coercive violence, you’re going to have a mess.”
Radical Islam, where it has won out, has invariably created failed states, Cashin said. This has resulted in a backlash, particularly among youth who are beginning to question Islam as never before.
“That is why Christian missions need to focus on the Muslim world,” Cashin said. “We think of them as the ones that are most closed to the Gospel. I believe the opposite is true. They are the people most open to the Gospel right now. This is a time of harvest. Satan’s strategy is to get Christians to ignore Islam or, worse yet, to hate Islam. That is the only way to stop the Muslims from coming to Christ.”
Bishop Bilindabagabo’s vision is to send out missionaries from the church in Africa to reach Muslims in Africa. This is counter to what most Muslims, who generally associate missionaries with white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, expect.
Although listed as an advisor on the Network’s web site, Cashin downplayed his official duties and emphasized a more spiritual role.
“The bishop already has a good group of evangelists who come from a Muslim background who are doing mission and planting churches,” Cashin said. “It’s a very, very exciting time. We are primarily just encouraging the bishop and praying for this effort.”